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Insurgent Identities: Class, Community, and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune

Insurgent Identities: Class, Community, and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune
Author: Roger V. Gould
ISBN 13: 9780226305615
ISBN 10: 226305619
Edition: 1
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Publication Date: 1995-12-01
Format: Paperback
Pages: 262
List Price: $32.00

In this important contribution both to the study of social protest and to French social history, Roger Gould breaks with previous accounts that portray the Paris Commune of 1871 as a continuation of the class struggles of the 1848 Revolution. Focusing on the collective identities framing conflict during these two upheavals and in the intervening period, Gould reveals that while class played a pivotal role in 1848, it was neighborhood solidarity that was the decisive organizing force in 1871.

The difference was due to Baron Haussmann's massive urban renovation projects between 1852 and 1868, which dispersed workers from Paris's center to newly annexed districts on the outskirts of the city. In these areas, residence rather than occupation structured social relations. Drawing on evidence from trail documents, marriage records, reports of police spies, and the popular press, Gould demonstrates that this fundamental rearrangement in the patterns of social life made possible a neighborhood insurgent movement; whereas the insurgents of 1848 fought and died in defense of their status as workers, those in 1871 did so as members of a besieged urban community.

A valuable resource for historians and scholars of social movements, this work shows that collective identities vary with political circumstances but are nevertheless constrained by social networks. Gould extends this argument to make sense of other protest movements and to offer predictions about the dimensions of future social conflict.


Noting that both the structuralist and culturalist interpretations of class fail to explain the differences between the social and political upheavals in Paris in 1848 and 1871, Gould constructs an innovative framework that empirically tests the meaning of protest rather than prescribing it, and develops from that a theory linking the meaning to the networks of social relationships involved. Then he applies the theory to the events in Paris with the understanding that a single undisputable cause can no more be isolated by historians than by participants. Paper edition (unseen), $15.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)